How long does it take to get a patent?

How long does it take to get a patent?

We are often asked, how long does it take to get a patent? And the answer is not as straightforward as you might think. It varies country-by-country, but in the UK, it can take anything from 21 months to 4 years to process a patent application through to grant, and sometimes even a little more.

The patent process

The process starts by filing an initial UK patent application including a specification made up of a description of your invention and some claims, which are legal statements setting our the scope of protection you want (in other words, what you want to be able to stop others from being able to legally make and sell). This bit can be done in a matter of weeks, or even days if necessary.

The filing date of your initial application is otherwise known as the “priority date” and, after that date, you can disclose your invention without undermining your IP rights (provided you retain that priority date by continuing with the initial UK application, and/or filing a new UK application and any corresponding overseas applications, by the end of 12 months from filing the initial UK application).

UK Patent Timeline

After the initial UK application has been filed, it goes through various stages, as illustrated below:

UK patent timeline

This is just a general overview, and the timescales can be speeded up bit, under certain circumstances and by combining the search and examination stages, but the process remains essentially the same. The UK Intellectual Property Office has also recently issued a useful timeline, that can be found at:

Although it takes quite a long time to get a granted patent, this shouldn’t stop you from commercialising your invention once the initial application has been filed. You cannot take someone to court for infringement unless and until your patent has been granted, but a published patent application offers a degree of provisional protection and can act as an effective deterrent to any would-be infringers.

Overseas patents

Corresponding overseas patent applications must be filed by the end of 12 months from filing the initial UK application, if they are to retain its ‘priority date’ (otherwise, any disclosure of the invention in the meantime could invalidate your patent rights). Applications overseas usually follow much the same process as that outlined above, although the timescales vary greatly, depending on the country and the overseas filing strategy you have chosen.

Need Help?

You can see a more detailed explanation of the patent process by downloading a copy of our ebook “The SME Guide to Patents” here:; or you can book a free initial consultation by emailing or visiting our website at

Disclaimer: this narrative is intended to provide general information, and should not be considered to be formal legal advice.

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